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Thread: Black and White - BW film or Color??

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  1. #1

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    Black and White - BW film or Color??

    I'm interested in making some Black and White landscape images that I will scan and print. I don't have room for a traditional darkroom. I see my options as using BW film ( I would develop myself) or using color negative film and converting it. I mention the color film after reading about a technique used by photographer Barry Thorton. He found that color film allowed him more flexibility because of the different color channels he could manipulate. Is anyone else using color negative film?

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    Black and White - BW film or Color??

    Using color negative film allows you to do channel-mixing to simulate the effects of various color filters. The drawback is that you lose the ability to expand or contract contrast (color film has a very limited ability to push-pull due to the colors starting to distort). You can add contrast digitally after scanning, but you can't recover shadow detail that's been lost due to excessive contrast in the original film negative.

    There is also only one high-speed option (Portra 400NC) for color negative sheet film. You have multiple B&W options (Tri-X, HP5+, etc.).

    If you occasionally plan to send out for drum scans (for really large prints) then there are the additional issues of grain (color negative film tends to produce a grainier result with drum scanners than B&W or transparency film) and highlight brilliance (my digital lab believes B&W film produces slightly clearer highlights, presumably due to fewer film layers). But I don't believe either of these factors is as significant with flatbed scanners.

  3. #3
    Ted Harris's Avatar
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    Black and White - BW film or Color??

    You can easily do what you are suggesting, I do it all the time BUT I see no reason to limit yourself to color negative film. I do it from transparency film all the time. However, you have a second optiuon and it is the one I find most pleaseing most of the time and that is to shoot in black and white and then use quadtones to manipulate toward yoru final image in photoshop.

  4. #4

    Black and White - BW film or Color??

    Ted, I think what Hugh is suggesting is that, if you start with a color image, it's a lot easier to make selections, etc. because the color information is there to differentiate things (e.g. sky from trees).

    So you can make your selections, do some manipulation in color, then flatten the image out using the color mixer, etc., and then proceed with the B&W image.

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    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Black and White - BW film or Color??

    I shoot color neg film all the time specifically for the purpose of making b&w prints. I shoot quickload NPS 160 at ASA 100 primarily. All color neg films have overrated speeds and must be adjusted accordingly to preserve shadow detail. I then scan it "unclipped" in a well calibrated 4990 scanner which gives me a very long scale negative with adequate highlight and shadow detail to mainpulate those values in PS. The loss of speed in the adjusted asa is made up for by not having to filter and thereby apply filter factors in the field exposure because I can "apply" filters by manipulating the color channels in PS. That gives me effectively faster shooting speeds in the field and fewer glass surfaces to worry about etc.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    "When did photography become a desk job?" Kirk Gittings 2009

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  6. #6

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    Black and White - BW film or Color??

    "I shoot color neg film all the time specifically for the purpose of making b&w prints. I shoot quickload NPS 160 at ASA 100 primarily. All color neg films have overrated speeds and must be adjusted accordingly to preserve shadow detail. I then scan it "unclipped" in a well calibrated 4990 scanner which gives me a very long scale negative with adequate highlight and shadow detail to mainpulate those values in PS. The loss of speed in the adjusted asa is made up for by not having to filter and thereby apply filter factors in the field exposure because I can "apply" filters by manipulating the color channels in PS."

    Does that explain the particular "look" of the black and white photographs in the View Camera article I saw in the agazine store the other day? (aside from the bad cross-hatching showing in them that is)

  7. #7
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Black and White - BW film or Color??

    No none of those are particularly new images. All of those are either Tri-x in HC-110 (with #15 filter) or Tmax 100 in Tnax RS (with 25Red filte). And they were reproduced a hair dark.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    "When did photography become a desk job?" Kirk Gittings 2009

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    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Black and White - BW film or Color??

    I will attempt an answer to the "look" question even though I'm not sure what it really is. By tyhe way, all of those images in View Camera were captioned with film /dev info etc.

    I am wanting a high sense of drama in my images. My approach is with a fair amount of filtration and an expansion and low placement of the midtones. TRi-X in HC110 was the best combination that I found for that aesthetic but It produced a fair amount of grain and made it hard to hold shadow detail which over the years I got tired of. Enter scanning and PS where I can accomplish all of the above and hold shadow detail better. Enter the busiest 4 years of my life where my commercial business is booming, book projects and exhibits are poping up right and left and I have little time to even develope film. Enter digital gurus George DeWolf and Alan Labb into my life with some new ways of working that solve alot of these problems. I am still seeking the "look" with new techniques. I don't know if that answers the question Paddy.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    "When did photography become a desk job?" Kirk Gittings 2009

    KIRK GITTINGS
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  9. #9

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    Black and White - BW film or Color??

    Kodak, et al, refers to their black and white films as Panchromatic because it contains a sensitivity to certain wavelengths, ie., colors, of light more than others. Technical Pan film is (was?) more red sensitive, Infrared film is IR sensitive, etc. When you use said black and white films, its' response to the world of color is for the most part locked in during exposure.

    The beauty of using color capture (neg. or transparency) and converting to black and white
    in an image editing program, is that the options for creating an overall monochromatic tonal interpretation are both numerous and, unlike film, reversible.

    There are admittedly those who feel that black and white film does a fine enough job of it's own converting color to a grayscale negative, and I sometimes agree. I've rarely scanned a well exposed/developed piece of black and white film and lamented that I wished I'd shot it in color first.

  10. #10

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    Black and White - BW film or Color??

    Just wanted to say Thank You, this is an extremely interesting thread.

    I like transparency film for color and I am an old purist that truely enjoys using b&w. Whenever I import any scan image into PS I always convert it to CYMK to then manipulate the channels to obtain the midtones and shadows I want. (On my setup the highlights tend to behave.)

    The digital output today is great, especially when RIP'd, but I still like that silver gelatin print in my hands. . .Paul

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